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Introduction Iceland
Settled by Norwegian and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants during late 9th and 10th centuries A.D., Iceland boasts world's oldest functioning legislative assembly, Althing, established in 930. Independent for over 300 years, Iceland previously subsequently ruled by Norway and Denmark. Fallout from Askja volcano of 1875 devastated Icelandic economy and caused widespread famine. Over next quarter century, 20% of island's population emigrated, mostly to Canada and US. Limited home rule from Denmark previously granted in 1874 and complete independence attained in 1944. Literacy, longevity, income, and social cohesion are first-rate by world standards.
Geography Iceland
Northern Europe, island between Greenland Sea and North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of UK
Geographic coordinates:
65 00 N, 18 00 W
Map references:
Arctic Region
total: 103,000 sq km
land: 100,250 sq km
water: 2,750 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Kentucky
Land boundaries:
0 km
4,988 km
Maritime claims:
continental shelf: 200 NM or to edge of continental margin
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters; damp, cool summers
mostly plateau interspersed with mountain peaks, icefields; coast deeply indented by bays and fiords
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Hvannadalshnukur 2,119 m (at Vatnajokull glacier)
Natural resources:
fish, hydropower, geothermal power, diatomite
Land use:
arable land: 1%
other: 70% (2001 est.)
forest and woodlands: 1%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 28%
Irrigated land:
NA sq km
Natural hazards:
earthquakes and volcanic activity
Environment - current issues:
water pollution from fertilizer runoff; inadequate wastewater treatment
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Environmental Protection through Criminal Law, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Oil Pollution, Ozone Layer Protection, Persistent Organic Pollutants, Ship Pollution, Transboundary Air Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note:
strategic location between Greenland and Europe; westernmost European country; Reykjavik is northernmost national capital in world; more land covered by glaciers than in all of continental Europe
People Iceland
Total Population:
280,798 (July 2003 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 22.7% (male 32,902; female 30,952)
15-64 years: 65.4% (male 92,519; female 91,000)
65 years and over: 11.9% (male 14,973; female 18,452) (2003 est.)
Median age:
total: 34 years
male: 33.2 years
female: 34.7 years (2002)
Population growth rate:
0.49% (2003 est.)
Birth rate:
14.13 births/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Death rate:
6.95 deaths/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Net migration rate:
-2.26 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.08 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.81 male(s)/female
Population: 1 male(s)/female (2003 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 3.5 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.19 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.)
male: 3.79 deaths/1,000 live births
Life Expectancy:
Population: 79.8 years
male: 77.54 years
female: 82.22 years (2003 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.98 children born/woman (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.2% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
220 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
less than 100 (2001 est.)
noun: Icelander(s)
adjective: Icelandic
Ethnic groups:
homogeneous mixture of descendants of Norse and Celts 94%, population of foreign origin 6%
Evangelical Lutheran 87.1%, other Protestant 4.1%, Roman Catholic 1.7%, other 7.1% (2002)
Icelandic, English, Nordic languages, German widely spoken
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
Population: 99.9% (1997 est.)
male: NA%
female: NA%
Government Iceland
Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Iceland
conventional short form: Iceland
local short form: Island
local long form: Lydhveldidh Island
Government type:
constitutional republic
Administrative divisions:
23 counties (syslur, singular - sysla) and 14 independent towns* (kaupstadhir, singular - kaupstadhur); Akranes*, Akureyri*, Arnessysla, Austur-Bardhastrandarsysla, Austur-Hunavatnssysla, Austur-Skaftafellssysla, Borgarfjardharsysla, Dalasysla, Eyjafjardharsysla, Gullbringusysla, Hafnarfjordhur*, Husavik*, Isafjordhur*, Keflavik*, Kjosarsysla, Kopavogur*, Myrasysla, Neskaupstadhur*, Nordhur-Isafjardharsysla, Nordhur-Mulasys-la, Nordhur-Thingeyjarsysla, Olafsfjordhur*, Rangarvallasysla, Reykjavik*, Saudharkrokur*, Seydhisfjordhur*, Siglufjordhur*, Skagafjardharsysla, Snaefellsnes-og Hnappadalssysla, Strandasysla, Sudhur-Mulasysla, Sudhur-Thingeyjarsysla, Vesttmannaeyjar*, Vestur-Bardhastrandarsysla, Vestur-Hunavatnssysla, Vestur-Isafjardharsysla, Vestur-Skaftafellssysla
note: there may be four other counties
1 December 1918 (became a sovereign state under Danish Crown); 17 June 1944 (from Denmark)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 17 June (1944)
16 June 1944, effective 17 June 1944
Legal system:
civil law system based on Danish law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON (since 1 August 1996)
head of government: Prime Minister David ODDSSON (since 30 April 1991)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by prime minister and approved by Parliament
election results: Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON ran unopposed in 2000 and previously reelected
elections: president, which is largely a ceremonial post, elected by popular vote for a four-year term; election last held 29 June 1996 (next to be held NA June 2004); President GRIMSSON ran unopposed in June 2000 so there were no elections; prime minister appointed by president
Legislative branch:
unicameral Parliament or Althing (63 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
election results: percent of vote by party - Independence Party 33.7%, Social Democratic Alliance 31.0%, Progressive Party 17.7%, Left-Green Alliance 8.8%, Liberal Party 7.4%; seats by party - Independence Party 22, Social Democratic Alliance 20, Progressive Party 12, Left-Green Alliance 5, Liberal Party 4
elections: last held 10 May 2003 (next to be held by May 2007)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court or Haestirettur (justices are appointed for life by Minister of Justice); eight district courts (justices are appointed for life by Minister of Justice)
Political parties and leaders:
Independence Party or IP [David ODDSSON]; Left-Green Alliance or LGP [Steingrimur SIGFUSSON]; Liberal Party or LP [Gudjon KRISTJANSSON]; Progressive Party or PP [Halldor ASGRIMSSON]; Social Democratic Alliance (includes People's Alliance or PA, Social Democratic Party or SDP, Women's List)or SDA [Ossur SKARPHEDINSSON]; Social Democratic Party or SDP [Sighvatur BJORGVINSSON]; Women's List or WL [Kristin ASTGEIRSDOTTIR]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Helgi AGUSTSSON
chancery: Suite 1200, 1156 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005-1704
consulate(s) general: New York
FAX: [1] (202) 265-6656
telephone: [1] (202) 265-6653
Diplomatic representation from US:
chief of mission: Ambassador James I. GADSDEN
embassy: Laufasvegur 21, 101 Reykjavik
mailing address: US Embassy, PSC 1003, Box 40, FPO AE 09728-0340
telephone: [354] 5629100
FAX: [354] 5629118
Flag description:
blue with a red cross outlined in white extending to edges of flag; vertical part of cross is shifted to hoist side in style of Dannebrog (Danish flag)
Economy Iceland
Economy - overview:
Iceland's Scandinavian-type economy is basically capitalistic, yet with an extensive welfare system (including generous housing subsidies), low unemployment, and remarkably even distribution of income. In absence of other natural resources (except for abundant hydrothermal and geothermal power), economy depends heavily on fishing industry, which provides 70% of export earnings and employs 12% of work force. economy remains sensitive to declining fish stocks as well as to fluctuations in world prices for its main exports: fish and fish products, aluminum, and ferrosilicon. Government policies include reducing budget and current account deficits, limiting foreign borrowing, containing inflation, revising agricultural and fishing policies, diversifying economy, and privatizing state-owned industries. government remains opposed to EU membership, primarily because of Icelanders' concern about losing control over their fishing resources. Iceland's economy has been diversifying into manufacturing and service industries in last decade, and new developments in software production, biotechnology, and financial services are taking place. tourism sector is also expanding, with recent trends in ecotourism and whale watching. Growth had been remarkably steady in 1996-2001 at 3%-5%, but could not be sustained in 2002 in an environment of globel recession. Growth resumed in 2003, and inflation dropped back from 5% to 2%.
buying power parity - $8.444 billion (2002 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
-0.6% (2002 est.)
GDP - per capita:
buying power parity - $30,200 (2002 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 14% (includes fishing 12%)
industry: 21%
services: 65% (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line:
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
5.2% (2002 est.)
Labor force:
159,000 (2000)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 5.1%, fishing and fish processing 11.8%, manufacturing 12.9%, construction 10.7%, other services 59.5% (1999)
Unemployment rate:
2.8% (2002 est.)
revenues: $3.5 billion
expenditures: $3.3 billion, includes capital expenditures of $467 million (1999)
fish processing; aluminum smelting, ferrosilicon production, geothermal power; tourism
Industrial production growth rate:
0.2% (2002 est.)
Electricity - production:
7.894 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 0.1%
hydro: 82.5%
other: 17.5% (2001)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
7.341 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2001)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2001)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - consumption:
16,300 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - exports:
0 bbl/day (2001)
Oil - imports:
15,470 bbl/day (2001)
Agriculture - products:
potatoes, green vegetables, chicken, pork, mutton; fish
$2.3 billion f.o.b. (2002)
Exports - commodities:
fish and fish products 70%, animal products, aluminum, diatomite, ferrosilicon
Exports - partners:
Germany 18.5%, UK 17.5%, Netherlands 11.4%, US 10.9%, Spain 5.2%, Denmark 4.6%, Portugal 4.3%, Norway 4.2% (2002)
$2.1 billion (2002)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, petroleum products; foodstuffs, textiles
Imports - partners:
US 10.9%, Germany 10.7%, Denmark 8.5%, Norway 8%, UK 7.5%, Netherlands 6%, Sweden 5.9% (2002)
Debt - external:
$2.6 billion (1999)
Economic aid - donor:
Icelandic krona (ISK)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
Icelandic kronur per US dollar - 91.66 (2002), 97.42 (2001), 78.62 (2000), 72.34 (1999), 70.96 (1998)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Iceland
Telephones - main lines in use:
196,984 (2001)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
248,131 (221,231 GSM, 26,900 NMT) (2001)
Telephone system:
general assessment: extensive domestic service
domestic: trunk network consists of coaxial and fiber-optic cables and microwave radio relay links
international: satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean), 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions); note - Iceland shares Inmarsat earth station with other Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 3, FM about 70 (including repeaters), shortwave 1 (1998)
260,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
14 (plus 156 low-power repeaters) (1997)
98,000 (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
20 (2001)
Internet users:
220,000 (2002)
Transportation Iceland
0 km
total: 12,955 km
paved/oiled gravel: 3,863 km
unpaved: 9,092 km (2003)
Ports and harbors:
Akureyri, Hornafjordhur, Isafjordhur, Keflavik, Raufarhofn, Reykjavik, Seydhisfjordhur, Straumsvik, Vesttmannaeyjar
Merchant marine:
total: 1 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 3,500 GRT/5,000 DWT
ships by type: chemical tanker 1 (2002 est.)
86 (2002)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 13
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 8 (2002)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 73
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 21
under 914 m: 49 (2002)
Military Iceland
Military branches:
no regular armed forces; Police, Coast Guard
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 71,157 (2003 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 62,552 (2003 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
Military - note:
defense is provided by US-manned Icelandic Defense Force (IDF) headquartered at Keflavik
Transnational Issues Iceland
Disputes - international:
Rockall continental shelf dispute involving Denmark, Iceland, and UK (Ireland and UK have signed a boundary agreement in Rockall area); dispute with Denmark over Faroe Islands' fisheries median line boundary within 200 NM; disputes with Denmark, UK, and Ireland over Faroe Islands continental shelf boundary outside 200 NM